Using oil pastels… another trip to the greengrocer’s…

The last fruit & veg exercise for now… the subject was a spilled shopping basket containing a pineapple, bananas, clementines and a lemon on a dark blue cloth. I chose the shopping bag because of its long, woven handles which provide interesting texture, as well as twining well around the fruit and encasing the composition.

I tried out the composition in my A4 sketchbook first, using water-soluble crayons. I am quite pleased with the texture of the clementine’s skin in this sketch. The pits and the uneven colour of the skin are evident.

Basket of fruit - A4 preparatory sketch in water-soluble crayons

As I continue to work on an awareness of composition, I enjoy photographing aspects of finished sketches and drawings to observe alternative ways of the objects interacting with their format. I tried portrait and landscape options this time:

Cropped photograph from the basket of fruit - Portrait
Cropped photograph from basket of fruit - Lansdscape

Sometimes, I preferred the cropped images but with this composition, I didn’t because it seemed that too much was left out. I thought that the composition could have been improved by shortening the foreground so this is what I tried to do in the final drawing. I also changed the angle slightly between the two drawings but I only realised this afterwards. The two drawings were made some days apart.

Basket of fruit - oil pastels on blue-inked watercolour paper

I used textured watercolour paper as I had no coloured A3 paper to hand. I used two coats of diluted light blue calligraphy ink as a background. The second coat deepened the colour, which can be seen also in the lighter parts of the pineapple leaves. On reflection, I could have chosen a phthalo blue for the cloth, but am not sure that the oil pastels would have worked as well on a darker background. The pastels that I have are old and not of good quality and I do not have a huge range so a trip to Gerstaecker is in order to try out some other makes.

The pineapple had not appeared to be at the right angle in the A4 sketch and I tried to correct this in the final drawing but the bulk of the pineapple is still not quite there – the shopping basket should bulge more than it does! The handles are also not as uniform as they should be.

I built up colour gradually using a light ochre for the initial outlines. I had difficulty in distinguishing the yellows of the lemon and bananas as I began blocking in. This was easier for the parts that were in shade. I found it difficult also to get enough contrast without resorting occasionally to black, as well as dark blue. I tried overlaying colours but risked muddiness after two or three layers as the troughs in the paper began to fill in. Finally, I chose a mix of orange and yellow in the background, which balances the clementines in the foreground and also seems to bring the shopping bag and its contents forward.

Overall, I am fairly happy with the composition but would like the colours to be more intense and with more contrasts. It is interesting to note the effect that the background colour has on the finished image and it would be good to compare different colours of background using the same range of colours.

Finally, I cropped the image in a photograph again. I liked the composition of the one below because it included the twisted handles and even though these were cut of by the frame, the mind connects them outside the frame and is led back inside it again.

Fruit in a basket - cropped image

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